Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Moderators of real‐world effectiveness of smoking cessation aids: a population study: This English research highlights that there is no single best strategy for getting people to quit smoking. Other than increasing taxes (which works for everyone), market segmentation provides a guide to best methods. The study found that the best overall measure was e‐cigarettes, followed by varenicline (Chantix). Nicotine replacement treatment was only effective for those over 45 years old. “Use of websites was associated with increased abstinence in smokers from lower … but not higher social grades... There was little evidence of benefits of using other cessation aids.”

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One-minute survey tool can help providers prioritize patients' social needs: A brief questionnaire handed out in the ER at Virginia Commonwealth University produced some interesting findings: “…more than 60% of patients reported at least one unmet social need within the past 30 days. Almost 8% of inpatients and ED patients reported two needs and 18.4% of inpatients and 15.5% of ED patients reported three or more unmet needs.” While specific results are characteristic of the local population, the ease of use and 100% return rate make the tool worth considering by other facilities.

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About health insurance

CBO: Medicare for All gives 'many more' coverage but 'potentially disruptive': Further Congressional testimony on this topic yesterday revealed a couple issues. First, “Medicare for All” still means different things to different people. Second, the Congressional Budget Office deputy director Mark Hadley said that such a program would be very disruptive to the country. For example, he predicted the possibility of “increased wait times and problems with access to care.” How much would it cost? Depends on the specific proposal and who is doing the analysis; in other words, we don’t know.

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About pharma

Verma: CMS mulling outcomes-based ways to address expensive specialty drugs: In an interview yesterday, CMS Administrator Verma opined about how the federal government could lower costs for specialty pharmaceuticals. One method that has been discussed is paying only if the drug works. But that definition may be difficult— what if a “partial cure” is all that can be expected? She gave some other potential obstacles as well. “For example, patients rarely stick with one insurer indefinitely, which could make it hard to track mortality or other outcomes to establish payment. In addition, outcomes-based pricing could lead to higher list prices at launch, as pharmaceutical companies would be expected to pay rebates or discounts if the drug is less effective.”

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